If you run a Facebook page, you may or may not have noticed big changes in the numbers between August and December, 2012. For those who do not run many ads, the numbers were lower than expected. For those who run ads often, the numbers were likely higher than expected. This discrepancy led many to believe that Facebook was going to a “pay to play” model and despite reassurances by Facebook that this wasn’t true, the numbers told a different story.
Facebook discovered “a few weeks ago” that the insights reporting feature for pages was getting bad data. They were not counting views from the upgraded Android and iOS apps due to streamlining, while desktop views on sponsored posts were getting counted twice. They finally admitted to it today. The fix will be in place on Monday.
This is a minor bug that has caused major headaches to marketers. Those who are heavy on ads were seeing more impressions than they expected. If the results from these ads were poor, it’s hard to justify paying to present something to thousands of people if only a handful reacted. Conversely, those who use Facebook more organically or use the ads sparingly were made to believe that their efforts weren’t working. People adjusted strategies. Company owners and marketers complained. It was a mess.
While it looks like that (hopefully) going forward the right data will be displayed, it’s still a black eye for a company that is trying to position itself as a useful advertising platform. Google analytics have been around forever and haven’t seen the same level of bugs that Facebook insights have seen in a much shorter period. This is bad as Google Adwords budgets are the very dollars that Facebook is targeting. They want a chunk and they’re not doing a good job at proving that they’re worth it.
Perhaps most importantly, why are we finding out about this so late? If the data is inaccurate and being used by advertisers to measure success and failure, they should have divulged it the moment they discovered the problem. Instead, they kept it hidden until they fixed it. That’s not a good move for a public company that relies on user and advertiser trust.
What else is broken that we aren’t being told about yet?